Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tales from Bali-The Woman next Door

By Uma Anyar

The woman next door is mad at God. I do not question her reasons. Words, explanations, advice only skim the surface and do no good. Such angers run deep.

The woman next door has seventeen cats. She complains of trouble with sleeping through the night because she worries about her cats. One did not come home last night, another puked on the bed and a third has taken to making pee pee in her closet ruining two pairs of new sandals with leather straps and designer names embossed on the tread. The youngest one is cross-eyed.

She curls up on the sofa and tells me her life used to be simple. She had no problems. She was moderately friendly, but kept mostly to herself, read good books, exercised regularly, ate healthy foods- raw vegetables, pressed juices and free range protein. She sustained a level of harmony rare to most of us.

That was before the cats found their way into her life. It began innocently enough. First there was the black and white female with the scratched face who was in need of nursing and fresh milk. “ What kind of a monster would I be if I didn’t help the poor thing”? She asks me.

“ A terrible one. “ I respond.

“Then, one morning an orange marmalade momma cat with three kittens appeared and mewed until milk and bits of shredded chicken was served on a chipped china plate. “You should have seen them, so thin, like refugees”. She rings her hands and looks away. Her helplessness is beguiling. I want to stroke her shoulder or pet her head.

“What could I do?”

“Exactly what you did.” I answer.

“ A few weeks ago, I went for a walk, I cut through the rice fields near the Banyan tree, the big one near the cemetery on the road to Penestanan?” She looks at me queryingly.

“ I know the one. It is a beautiful tree. The Balinese consider it sacred. They say spirits live in the twisting trunks and fly from the branches in the form of fireballs.”

“Yes, that is the one. I found a cloth sack stuffed with squirming kittens. No one was around. I could feel death sneaking up through the tall grasses. What could I do? What would you do?

“Grab the sack and run like hell?” I suggest.

“That is just what I did.”

“Then what happened?”

All of them lived and become pregnant and gave birth to more kittens. They were so cute, so soft…. How many cats. . Now? I don’t know.”
Her voice trails off. She has lost count of her cats.

We are both quiet caught in observing the butterflies fluttering over the lily pond in her garden.

“Everything was all right until the cats. I love the cats. But, I cannot sleep because I think they are not happy or that some one will hurt them. Some body killed two of my cats where I lived before. They said I had too many cats. Every body smiled to my face but they kill my cats when I am not home. Now, I cannot go out. What will happen to my cats if I go to Spain for three weeks?”

“ Maybe you can hire a live in cat sitter for the time you are away,” I suggest.

“ Oh no, my cats like only me. They will not be happy with anyone else.”

The woman next door ponders her dilemma. She absentmindedly stretches her arms high above her soft head before continuing her lament. “Life is strange. God is stranger. My life was so simple, so peaceful. No husband, no children. I came. I went. I never locked my door… now, I am trapped by love.”

“Aren’t we all in one way or another at one time or another.”

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